Past, Present and Poetry: A Celebration of Jon Glover

To mark the release of Birdsong on Mars, Jon Glover’s latest poetry collection, Poetry Intern Steph Bennett explores his impact on poetry at Leeds through Special Collections.  

Jon Glover Portrait credit: Adrian Greenhalgh

Birdsong on Mars, Jon Glover’s first collection in eight years will be released by Carcanet Press this August.  Its publication presents a great opportunity to explore his involvement with poetry at Leeds, through the literary archives of Special Collections.

Glover is, in no small part, responsible for some of the key literary holdings in Special Collections. In his roles as managing editor of Stand magazine, one of Jon Silkin’s literary executors, and a respected poet in his own right he has been behind the acquisition of some of our major collections.

Glover’s involvement with poetry began during his time as a student at Leeds and continues today. He first came to Leeds to study English and Philosophy in 1962, and soon became involved in the vibrant literary culture centred on the University at the time.  Whilst at Leeds, he met other writers including Jon Silkin, Ken Smith, Geoffrey Hill, Peter Redgrove and Jeffrey Wainwright. He also met his wife, Elaine Glover, with whom he would go on to co-edit Stand.

Many of Glover’s literary activities as a student are documented in Special Collections. He served as member of the editorial board of Poetry & Audience, and was secretary of the second Leeds Student Arts Festival in 1966. Glover’s time as editor of ‘Sixty-One’ is well documented.  He became a co-editor for Northern House Pamphlet Poets, which issued two short collections of his poetry: The Grass’s Time (1970) and The Wall and The Candle (1982). Glover’s own literary archive covers much of this work.

It was through his close friendship with Silkin that Glover first became involved in the sale, distribution and editing of Stand in 1964. The magazine archives include business records and correspondence from early days in London in 1952, up to the present day. Without Jon and Elaine Glover’s involvement, Stand would not be the publication it is today, nor would its history be as deeply inscribed into Leeds’s legacy. Their work on the magazine continued for decades, until Elaine’s death in 2019 after which Jon stepped down as Managing Editor of the magazine. One of Silkin’s literary executors, Glover was responsible for the transfer of the Stand Archive and the Jon Silkin Archive and Library to Special Collections after his death in 1997.

Although Glover left the university as a student in 1968, he has continued a close involvement with Leeds, particularly with the School of English, where he is an honorary fellow.

Jon Glover’s literary influence is a startling reminder that Leeds has always been an artistic hub with a special flair for verse. Glover remains a steadfast pillar of the Leeds legacy. Birdsong on Mars is another part of our rich inheritance.